It’s National Library Week, and this picture makes me happy.
What? It appears utterly common, downright drab, and blends in with the native wildlife? Every mystic portal does, my deary. Only those with the gift of imagination know better and enter on tiptoe. There are aisles full of magic spells, swirling colors, acrobats. Dragons and race cars and music. Open a cover, turn a page, and you will disappear.
Turn right, and a keeper of words will tell you exactly where the unicorns are hidden. Turn left, and you will find a room where words can be taken home forever. Move forward fifty paces and unearth that one 80’s movie you can never find on Hulu.
But. If you take forty paces north by northwest and turn left at the yellow arrow, you’ll discover a treasure trove full of books marked with a purple “E”. Brace yourself.
Meet the lovely Azar Katouzian, the Principal Librarian at the Escondido Public Library who graciously hosted me as the guest author for this month’s writer’s group. It was a pleasure speaking with them about the creation of my Loveda Brown series and encouraging everyone to write on. In conjunction with the event, I donated copies of my books to their collection. I’ve always believed that books are meant to circulate, and when you’ve finished mine, I hope you pass the books on to more friends who love to read or donate them to your local library.
In addition, I now have a page of Resources for Writers on this website that brings all the articles, videos, podcasts, and groups together in one place. These are hubs of information that all authors can utilize. If you’re trying to get your writing projects to the next level, explore this tool box.
Meanwhile, as I was feeling some library nostalgia after my presentation, I ordered some swag for my office wall: a fun poster from the ALA Store. You’ll never guess which one I chose.
It’s been a while since our last giveaway! To get your name in a drawing for a free signed copy of Loveda Brown Comes Home, drop the name of the book you’re reading right now into the comment box below!
I love me a good reading challenge. I raised my fabulous five surrounded by books and, so far as I can tell, I think it’s done them well. The youngest is a tender twenty years old and can figure out the letters they put into math and occasionally spouts the Greek at me across the kitchen, just to make me shiver.
The alphabet. Don’t underestimate it.
We’ve graduated from the good old days when kids had nothing better to do during the long lazy months of summer but chase chickens around the backyard, annoy ant hills with a magnifying glass, or walk with the fam two blocks south for a visit to the public library. The attraction had as much to do with the free air conditioning as it did with seeing how many borrowed books we could squeeze into our little red wagon.
Every summer, the library held a Reading Challenge for kids. And we knocked it out of the ballpark. The kids still have medals to prove it. Perhaps the idea of a reading competition feels as exciting as watching grass grow or—follow me here—a golf tournament. But as my third child would say, you are a bucket of wrong.
And there comes a time when a mom can no longer live vicariously through her children.
The idea is to set yourself the goal of reading “X” amount of books during the calendar year and then, as you finish each one, you post it to your list along with a review if you so choose. Not just for a summer…for an entire year!
Come here, Goodreads.
First, I had to throw a huge backlist together of my favorite books that I’d already read (possibly multiple times) and it keeps me up at night, knowing I’ve missed actual thousands of titles because I was too chicken to post the kid books. I’d love for you to think my reading list is classy and intellectual, but I love “Where the Wild Things Are” and Ezra Jack Keats and every single Nancy Drew ever written, even though Caroline Keene is a lie and our relationship has been strained at best, ever since she came clean.
After posting the backlist, I had to remember what I read last year and hurt myself trying. It’s mostly accurate. But a goal for this year? I took a step back and made the rational decision that a book a month felt healthy. I do have a full-time job writing, but after all, I’m also in a real live Book Club. If I read nothing else, I can post the dozen current books that these hip and happenin’ ladies put in my path. Right?
I’m supposed to be halfway through “A Million Steps” by Kurt Koontz. Instead, I’ve hidden under the covers at night and binge-read Sue Grafton. My secret goal for the Reading Challenge is to get all the way through her alphabet before the Book Club catches on to me and I get the boot.
This is how my kids got into trouble at school, reading fiction under their desk instead of their math book sitting on top. I suppose that explains my twenty-year-old, though.
I read “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy like a good girl, and it gutted me entirely. I don’t know if I can handle that level of emotional shipwreck every month. I mean, I’m already doing that with menopause.
Last week, I posted “F is for Fugitive” on Goodreads. I’m claiming every page. Kinsey Millhone is steady, predictable, and teaching me about my own craft. It annoyed me that she didn’t describe herself until page fourteen and then said her hair was “dark”. Dark? Like brunette? Black? Mahogany? Glints of red or blue in the direct sun? Sure, it’s good enough to use those details on the suspects, but we readers need foundational reference. If you don’t tell me, I will make it up, Kinsey!
But that’s not the kind of stuff you post on Goodreads. You have to say things like, “Delicate and fresh, very soft tannins with fruity aromas. A little vivid for my taste, but overall well balanced and smooth on the palate.”
I will keep my opinions to the blog and keep my enormous pile of TBR books in the little red wagon next to the bed.
It’s full of the alphabet, G through Y, with a couple of Kiplings, a secret Madeleine L’Engle, a Shel Silverstein side wall, a bottom layer of JK Rowling, a mix of CS Lewis and EB White, random Janet Evanovich numbers, and a flashlight.
Salutations favorite peeps! My incredibly good mood this morning could be blamed on several things. September is finally here and my anticipation of snuggly sweaters, flamboyant scarves, and leather boots is entirely too optimistic but is undeniably arrived. I am at the bottom of my first perfect cup of tea for the day. And I managed to stack up a total of five dead bodies last month.
I wasn’t that kid in middle school who could work a Rubik’s Cube. It crossed my eyes and when no one was looking, I peeled the little stickers off and pasted them back together on each side because my OCD was off the charts, seeing those colored squares out of place. I spent all of high school drama practice learning to french braid my own hair. It’s like underwater basket weaving, blind folded. These things can be done, but you have to access whole other parts of your brain to attempt them.
And I only have so much brain.
My official first Murder Mystery is accomplished, is what I’m trying to tell you, and writing it felt exactly like riding Mr Toad’s Wild Ride while attempting to french braid my curly hair and recite the alphabet backwards. There was a lot of lurching and laughing but also occasional shrieks.
The plot involves a fresh heroine, Loveda Brown, who races into the tiny town of Idyllwild, California in the Year of Our Lord 1912 and much mayhem and murder and mistaken identities occur. Technically classified as both a “historical” and a “cozy”, you won’t find violence or grisly bits on the pages but you will find humor and small town relationships because I am absolutely making this into a series. Hopefully, at least the first two will be available by Halloween. That just feels logical.
If you like things that go bump in the night, drop me a comment here. Let me know if you want to be on my list of super-sneaky, sworn-to-secrecy beta readers, the peeps who read my drafts and tell me which parts require tightening up. Like a noose. I’m currently taking auditions for my next villain and he or she must be willing to kill for all the right reasons and clever enough to get away with it. Tell me about your fave mystery, whether it’s a book, TV show, movie, or pandemic conspiracy theory. Some day, you might even find your name in one of my books.
Dead or alive.
Click this image to read the first chapter of “The Great Loveda Brown”.
If you want to keep up with the books and when they launch, subscribe to the Newsletter here:
There came a moment in the spring of 2020 when all of the planet took a time-out. In this sabbath hush, the earth could be heard breathing. In order to better hear it, everyone stepped outside and walked the dusty soil, admired her fragile blue-green beauty, felt her pulse, and embraced all humanity as family.
Okay. It may have been a tadsy bit difficult to continue our faith in humanity. To trust that others will also think of others. To believe that tiny gestures of faith can change the world.
Here in San Diego, I discovered evidence that many gave it a go. And I salute them.
We are blessed to live next to some fabulous hiking trails and we wander them almost daily. A favorite walk of mine is a nice, flat 5K that is wide enough to let me take evasive action if I see snakes or non-mask wearing humans. Hubby always wants to hike in new different directions. He says he is bored with the same old gorgeous view and needs a fresh one. He wants to walk the wild side and go uphill. As if life wasn’t already uphill both ways in four feet of snow.
And so, my favorite walk, in imminent jeopardy of becoming “boring”, was saved when the art began to appear. Paintings left along the path, mysteriously detailed on rocks. And just as mysteriously, disappearing again. I was fascinated and had I not taken photos, would not have proof they were there. It was like discovering my own whimsical outdoor art gallery and it brought a smile to my face every time I uncovered one.
Turns out, these little gems were shifting around on purpose. Just like a Bible school project I’d covered in a newsletter last year, they were part of a larger movement where rocks are painted and then left for people to find and hide again as way to inspire communities with random acts of kindness, like rainbows or teddy bears in the windows did.
It’s a shame they had to move, though. I’m sure the art was relocated to another trail to inspire the next person. Ahem.
So it works, people. But they are gone and nothing has replaced them, and I wonder whether you would be interested in painting a few for me? I have two left thumbs but I sat down and made a couple of little trail buddies, although everyone knows I am not to be trusted with paint. Or glue. Or glitter. It mostly stayed on my hands…
Help a girl out. Let’s change the world.
If I can do it, anyone can!
I could attempt this abstract. I’m calling it “The Purple People Eater”.
Oh. My. Word. Cuteness.
A classic, with a message for our times. There are a lot of unsung heroes among us.
Mandala, inspiration for intentional, thoughtful steps forward.
My spirit rock. Inspires automatic social distancing while maintaining a sense of humor.
Alright, who invited the Canadian??
The strawberry is what’s left of an entire fruit salad, which was my favorite. There was also a hotdog here at one point. Hard not to reach for these treats!
This one I call, “Sally Sweet”, portrait of a tough gal full of vision and endurance who carries the sunshine with her. Be like Sally.
A long time ago (beginning of March), in a galaxy far away (across town), I made a run to Costco (Ground Zero). This is usually Hubby’s job but my super efficient self had to get gas anyway. I pulled into a front row parking spot that sunny morning, congratulating myself on arriving before opening hour and turned on the radio for a rare five minutes of relaxation. I thought it was odd to see a crowd gathered near the warehouse doors on a Tuesday, but with Costco you never know. I shrugged a couple of minutes later, gathered my shopping list and headed over to stand with the happy campers and stare at the rollup doors the way my cat stares down a can of tuna.
The woman closest to me gave me funny look. Not a happy one. Like maybe my fly was down or I had mustard on my face. I looked around and realized that she was the line leader for everyone there. Behind her stretched a trail of people gripping empty shopping carts down the entire length of the building. Huh? Since when does everyone get in line? Costco is famous for the wide open cattle range that it is. Every man for himself. It works.
Not on her watch.
I glanced to my left and a gentleman stood there with an amused smirk and crossed arms and I copied him and got myself comfortable. People are weird.
“I’m not getting in line,” I told him. “There’s enough stuff for an army in there, what’s the rush?”
At opening time, another amazing thing happened. From the exit door, three employees walked out and, facing the line of customers, held up their cell phones and began to shoot video. They shook their heads in disbelief as the line began to move into the bowels of the store. The employee who opened the door began calling out to the passing people, “Take your time, folks, there’s plenty for everyone. Be polite, please. Thank you for staying calm.”
What in the world? It must be quite a sale. Too bad whatever it was wasn’t on my list.
With one raised eyebrow, I followed the last of the line into the store. No. That’s not true. I waited for the end of the line to show up and it didn’t. The whole parking lot was migrating towards me now, so I just waved my card and conducted business as usual. All aboard.
I zipped up the sidelines where no shoppers ever linger. I’m no amateur. Tossed the goods into my cart without skipping a beat, which is how I always shop. Get in. Get out. Tea time.
I came skidding around a corner five minutes later, halfway done, and darned if the line was still in formation and stretched in the opposite direction, the length of the warehouse. Perfectly serious faces, perfectly empty carts.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled at the line. I was monitored from all directions as they let me through.
“Get some more troopers back there,” an employee hissed into his walkie, scuttling by.
I craned my neck in a brief attempt to understand when Karen plowed triumphantly by, her cart full to overflowing with…toilet paper. If you are unfamiliar with a Costco-sized package of toilet paper, just know that it takes only two to prevent all further items going into your cart. These tissue towers won’t even fit under the cart. Karen had three and the front basket where the babies go was stacked with sanitizing hand wipes. The look on her face implied she was only warming up, but where was she going to put her groceries? Down her bra?
The next man went by with a Jenga-worthy stack in his cart and I heard him say, to no one in particular, “I own a business.” His tone was defensive.
Then a little old lady passed me and saw my shocked face. She only had a single plushie in her cart but said apologetically, “Well, I don’t really need any but if this is the way things are going, I may as well get me some now.”
I had no clue what was going on. I did not get this memo. I was a little freaked out.
I flung the rest of my groceries into the cart and dashed to the check-out where I had the place to myself. That alone is a creepy experience. The clerk behind the beep beep machine wore a resigned look. One braced for the inevitable. Long suffering and just a bit in shock.
“What?” she said, scanning items, “no toilet paper?” I gripped my cart in an effort to remain calm. Was I making a terrible mistake?
“What’s happening?” I asked her under my breath, not sure I wanted to know.
She stopped scanning and just stared at me. There was no one else in line. She leaned forward and said, “Well, I’ll tell you. Last week, three of our trucks were stalled out east due to bad weather. Happens all the time. These just happened to contain our toilet paper. So, for a couple of days, there was a big empty space where it goes.” She stood taller. “It’s not like we weren’t going to get it any minute, we had to keep the space open.”
I thought for a beat. Costco never has empty spaces. Product is continually shifted to maximize sales.
“Anyway,” she continued, as she swiped my items from left to right, “A rumor went around that there was a shortage. So when the trucks finally arrived, there was a run on it.” She paused. “I get it if people were out but I mean, you can buy the stuff anywhere. We all decided they must just love our brand or whatever, but it’s happened every single day since. Cleaned out faster than we can put more on the pallets. No reason why. We have plenty. We won’t run out.”
She looked towards the cattle drive and shook her head. “Do you need boxes today?”
I declined her offer, thanked her, and bolted.
I was almost to my car and a lady went by and laughed, “What? Where’s your toilet paper?”
I was prevented from replying because three different cars were inches from my body, poised to take my spot as soon as I pulled out. The parking lot resembled Disneyland on a get-in-free day. A steady surge of humanity kept flowing into the warehouse, trapped in the toilet paper tractor beam.
At this point, you have to know some things. One, I did not in any way need toilet paper. And two, I was contemplating unloading my groceries into my car and going back for some because I didn’t want to get left behind. I felt deprived, anxious, needy, and fearful of the future.
“What if? What if?” asked my mother’s voice.
“Well,“ I answered, “if we need some, we’ll buy it at the 7-11 on the corner. If the planet runs out, squirt bottles for everybody.” It was time to go home.
“Ewww,” said the voice.
“The Europeans are way ahead of us as it is. Hush.” I sat in the car and took a nice deep breath. “And if we didn’t need any, then everyone here is going to feel a bit silly a month from now.”
So far, this year has been the strangest ever and I find myself doing absurd things and passing them off as normal. For example: I have a kitten now.
Pre-pandemic saw me pet-free for a solid twenty years. Why have animals when you have five kids, amiright? Post-pandemic finds me desperate to keep those kids somehow occupied long enough for me to throw a frozen pizza into the oven and open a bottle of pinot grigio. Do NOT talk to me about how these kids are in their twenties. Some things never change.
The kitten was an impulsive decision made in a fifteen minute window wherein I was not thinking clearly but I have to admit, my kids are flocking around this little fluff ball and our long afternoons are now filled with entertaining shouts of, “Look out, it’s crawling under the dresser!” “What’s that in the litter box?” and “Is it supposed to claw my hand into shreds while it drinks the bottle?”
I’m sure I’m not alone when I ask the question: What was the right pet for our family? And is it too late?
If you, too, are feeling like 2020 is the perfect year to bring a new pet into your home, take this handy quiz to discover if you are crazy which pet is your purr-fect pandemic partner.
I love my job. I mean LOVE. I snack on words at tea time. I shake them in a bag like dice and see what they form when they roll out. People send me words and I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas to read them. My collection of greeting cards fills more than one box and when I’m down I pull one out at random and feel the love.
Words. The gift that keeps on giving.
But when I want a laugh, a good deep belly laugh, I pull up my spam emails and feed them to my ferrets.
It is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform. Your positive regards towards this very message will be appreciated, please do not regard this email as one of the common unsolicited email or false business invitation in the world today. I am fully convinced that you will really be of help as a new friend and business partner. I hope my message to you will be given proper attention despite the fact we have not seen or even meet each other before. knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty between you and I without cheat, lie or sabotage the business project. My lawyer will prepare a good memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the success of this project in-line with law of your country of origin. I can assure you the success of the business transaction if you can keep it top secret. Humbly indicate your full name, Contact address and contact number while replying my proposal.
Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, nice written and include approximately all significant infos. I would like to see more posts like this.
certainly like your website but you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I will definitely come again again.
The subsequent time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I do know it was my choice to learn, however I actually thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you might repair in case you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.
It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!
Thanks for the tips you discuss through this blog. In addition, several young women who become pregnant don’t even try and get health insurance because they dread they probably would not qualify. Although some states right now require that insurers supply coverage no matter what about the pre-existing conditions.
We are approaching a future of a one-world cashless society in which they will mandate us to have an RFID microchip implanted in our body. This chip will contain all our personal information and we will lose much more of our privacy because of the tracking capabilities. More importantly, did you know that this was all prophesied almost 2000 years ago by a man named Jesus? Don’t believe me? Keep reading…This may be the most important thing you will ever read.
Was it ever. Went on for pages and repeated in several languages. But he could have spared the space and just beeped the info via satellite into my microchip.
Knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty, I know I can count on you to stick around when I do a bunch of whining about one thing that I might repair if I weren’t so busy looking for attention.
You’re the best.
And it is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform.
Our next meeting is tomorrow morning at 1:30am Pacific Time, mark your calendar.
Last night’s agenda:
2am: Wake up hearing a strange noise. Realize you smell the essence of skunk and wonder if the garage door was left open. Listen for strange noises for a few more minutes.
2:08am: Tell yourself it’s nothing and try to go back to sleep.
2:10am: Realize that nice tune in the back of your head is Maroon 5. Congratulate yourself on good taste in music.
2:12am: Recall that a critical task was left undone and due at 6am. Reassure yourself the world will not stop spinning if you didn’t post a blog. No, we aren’t’ getting up right now and doing it.
2:20am: Bladder insists that we can’t wait until morning. Check the garage door. Sneak into kitchen for a drink. Your house is creepy in the dark.
2:24am: WHO ARE THESE BARBARIANS? The sink is full of dirty dishes. You cleaned this place before you went to bed. You live in a barn. Go back to bed.
2:46am: Practice dramatic yawning in attempt to force oxygen into sleep part of brain. Stretch extremities. Roll over.
3:08am: Hubby still snoring. Contemplate the droopy bags, dark rings, and the wrinkles I’m actively creating under my eyes. Mentally inventory makeup drawer for solutions. Don’t forget to add a new mascara to the shopping list.
3:24am: Decide I need to be a better parent. I should help the boys with their college planning. When was the last time I took a daughter for coffee? Am I supportive enough? Give them enough space? Give them enough time? My poor babies.
3:39am: Try not to get mad. Lots of people aren’t sleeping right now. Probably the President. For sure moms with newborns. You don’t see them getting upset, do you? Pound pillows into proper sleeping shapes.
3:48am: The song is so appropriate. So right for right now. Explains everything. You might as well watch the whole cartoon in your head. We have time. You got yours and I got mine.
3:52: It’s such a cozy bed. Snuggly, really. All is well. And if it isn’t, well, there’s always tomorrow. We’ll have coffee. Cooooofffffffeeeeeee……
The Imperiled Ocean by ocean journalist Laura Trethewey is a deeply reported work of narrative journalism that follows people as they head out to sea. What they discover holds inspiring and dire implications for the life of the ocean — and for all of us back on land. Battles are fought, fortunes made, lives lost, and the ocean approaches an uncertain future.
Congratulations to Missy from Illinois, the winner of Laura’s freshly minted and personally autographed book! These smart and thought-provoking stories are worth sitting down and thoroughly ingesting. Here is an excerpt from her piece, Cleaning the Coast.
Thank you, Laura, for an exploration of the earth’s last wild frontier, and the opportunity to get to know it – and you – better.
A worn piece of plastic drifted on the ocean over a thousand miles from civilization. A sailboat approached with a 30-year-old woman on board. She leaned out over the gunwale to pick the plastic from the surface. Except she couldn’t: long, dangling seaweed roped the plastic to the water. She reeled up the weed, hand over hand; it stretched deeper and deeper into the depths. Down below, she saw fish darting between the fronds.
As Chloé Dubois sailed farther into a slowly spinning gyre of plastic in the largest ocean on Earth, she experienced this scene again and again. It was 2015, and Chloé and her team at the nonprofit Ocean Legacy had sailed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to collect microplastic samples for The Ocean Cleanup, another plastic-pollution nonprofit.
Using samples collected by 37 boats, Chloé’s included, that trawled a 3.5-million-square-kilometer swath of the Pacific, Ocean Cleanup hoped to create the first high-resolution map of ocean plastic. Chloé remembers hauling up the water-sampling trawler and peeking in at its contents on deck, and discovering all manner of marine stowaways in the detritus. How did you get here? she wondered as she picked up a tiny crab clinging to a bottle cap in the middle of the formidable ocean. Drifting by the boat, she saw buoys covered with gooseneck barnacles. Ocean-knotted islands of rope that hid masses of organisms.
“On the news, there’s this plastic island in the middle of the ocean that’s the size of Texas, and that’s pretty much what people know unless they go out there and experience it for themselves,” she said. Instead of a floating island of waste, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so often portrayed, she encountered more of a drifting slurry. The pollution came in all shapes and stages of degradation, from microscopic particles and fibers, to toothbrushes, bottles and great tangles of fishing nets and lines.
She witnessed, too, how nature worked with the plastic intruders. In the ocean, bacteria and algae quickly glom onto any floating feature they can find, drawn to the nutrients that collect there. More and larger animals, like barnacles and tubeworms, follow suit, fastening themselves to the marine debris. How productive of the ocean to use the plastic to build tiny ecosystems out on a vast desert of salt water, where so little life thrives in comparison to coastal waters.
The Garbage Patch was not a dead zone at all, she realized, but a world teeming with life.
Since she was 17 years old, Chloé has been involved in the environmental movement. In her early twenties, she began collecting plastic from beaches and she’s now cleaned shorelines across Mexico, Alaska, Costa Rica, Panama, and Canada. When she was 29, she co-founded the nonprofit Ocean Legacy, and she has become obsessed with cleaning plastic from the environment. She knows the names, acronyms, and resin codes of the plastic pantheon like they’re her children.
For a moment, Chloé hesitated before destroying the little crab’s home, this plastic piece of garbage that it had found and colonized and survived on against all the odds. Rationally, she knew that the crab’s plastic bottle cap was on its way to becoming a toxic pill. Plastic is a master at teasing out toxins from the ocean, sucking floating chemicals from the water column and condensing them into ever more hazardous forms. Industrial metals, pesticides, fertilizers, plastic softeners, and flame retardants can dissolve in water or be hydrophobic, meaning they want out of the water fast. Plastic already contains some of the chemical contaminants found in water, and that makes certain types of plastic naturally attractive hosts to wayward chemicals. A smaller animal might then ingest that poisoned plastic item, covered in slimy nutrients and pollutants, like PCBs, that have been banned on land for decades but are still drifting out in the ocean. A larger animal will then eat this animal, and up the food chain the plastic goes, magnifying its toxicity as it jumps to each new animal.
Chloé knew all this. She had seen the damage firsthand, yet destroying an animal’s home still gave her pause.
Then she plunged her hands in and removed all the plastic she could find, no matter how much life clung to it. The team built a home for displaced crabs in a glass tank on deck.
When they had sailed outside the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Chloé dove off the boat and into the sea. When she climbed back on board, tiny pellets of plastic covered her skin. After a month and a half sailing across the Pacific, her sailboat returned to land with 154 water samples hauled up from across the ocean. Every single one contained plastic.
Not all plastic is a problem. Much of it helps us and is integrated into every step of human life from birth to death. As I write this, I tap away on computer keys made of plastic, scroll through webpages on a mouse made of plastic, and peer through glasses rimmed with plastic. It’s the cheap, omnipresent plastic that lasts hundreds of years but is built to throw away the second after we use it that’s a big problem, perhaps one of the biggest for the ocean.
For almost as long as industrial plastic production has existed, we’ve known that plastic was going in the ocean. In the 1970s, a team of researchers sampling water in the sluggish Sargasso Sea reported that tiny plastic fragments were floating on the surface. During a 1997 yacht race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, a sailing scientist named Charles Moore passed through a remote stretch of Pacific Ocean and found himself surrounded by plastic debris in all directions. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it was later called, grabbed the world’s attention.
Suddenly there was a tangible place where all our waste was going, just outside the limits of our imagination.
The sea is a vast, deep, mutable force that covers 71 percent of the Earth. Plastic is small, ubiquitous, and breaks into ever-smaller pieces. When these two meet, they marry: a horrible collision between the synthetic and the natural.
A trawl sample collected from the Great Pacific Gyre by Ocean Legacy.
Given enough time, the ocean has the ability to spread plastic to the most remote reaches of the planet. Today, plastic is drifting in the waters off Antarctica. Plastic comes down in rain. Plastic fibers pass through the filter-feeding valves of oysters. Not long ago, Japan’s Deep-sea Debris Database reported finding a fully intact plastic bag in the Mariana Trench, the deepest underwater trough in the world.
We still don’t know exactly how much plastic is going into the ocean. One study, published in Science in February 2015, conservatively estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic is entering the ocean each year from municipal solid waste streams on land. That is 200 times higher than what had last been calculated in 1975 based on plastic pollution entering the ocean from maritime activities, and more than 2,000 times higher than what had been estimated from floating debris samples.
In that 2015 study in Science, environmental engineer Jenna Jemback and her co-authors argue that barring any major changes, plastic going into the ocean will multiply by a factor of 10 in 2025. That’s 80 million metric tons of plastic dumped in the ocean each year.
Despite the startling numbers of waste already in the ocean, our love of plastic endures. Plastic production is growing and expanding right along with plastic demand. By 2030, our need for plastic is expected to double.
The financial guru Warren Buffett once compared a stock market crash to the tide going out: you find out who’s been swimming naked all along. During the 2008 financial crisis, we discovered that big banks can fail. For centuries, we’ve believed the same of the ocean: that it was simply too big to fail. But an encroaching movement of threats, such as a warming ocean, overfishing, and pollution, could change that in the not-too-distant future.
If we could see beneath the surface, what would we find at the bottom of the sea? Perhaps millions of tons of plastic lying undisturbed, except for the bottom-dwellers that nibble at the nutrients collecting on it. Perhaps this evidence of the world’s waste will eventually become a layer of sediment pressed between rock layers: the Plastic Era, a fitting symbol of human-made change, baked into the Earth’s crust.